Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I said last time I would write here first about my recent vacation in the "wilds" of Pennsylvania, and here it is.

MH in the snowy woods. (Photo by Margo D. Beller)
First, what is "wild" is the forest but most of what we went through were huge farm fields in small rural communities. Hunting and fishing are the reasons most "foreigners" come here, and since we do neither we spent our time hiking or driving long distances.

We picked the northeastern part of this region for its Grand Canyon. I have never been to the one out west but this one was pretty nice, too, despite the extreme cold (expected high that day was 31 degrees F) and the little bit of snow that fell overnight. We hiked one day around the rim on the west side of the Pine Creek gorge and then, two days later when the ice had melted, hiked around the eastern part. Each side is a state park.

The west one, Leonard Harrison, is obviously more set up for tourists - bathrooms, a ledge for observing. The east one, Colton Point, is at the end of a narrow, twisty road through Tioga State Forest. What few bathrooms were open were hard to find and the rim trail wasn't very well marked. Luckily, this was the day the temperature started to rise again to the low 40s so the ice had melted off the road.

Raven chasing the much larger bald eagle. (Margo D. Beller)
This was not a birding trip, per se. I had hoped we'd be far enough north to find something like a boreal chickadee or black-backed woodpecker, something you'd find in the North Country of New Hampshire. What we did find were bald eagle flying over the canyon being harried by ravens, and the smaller American crows harrying a redtail hawk. Of the smaller birds the chickadees and titmice were joined by gold-crowned kinglets, downy woodpeckers and juncos.

In fact, the most unusual birding was along a back road behind our hotel, where I walked our second cold morning (19 degrees F) before we made our way north to the Finger Lakes area so MH could finally see one. Along that road were goldfinches, large flocks of robins and, to my shock, a Lincoln sparrow that just sat there in the sun, allowing me to make sure it had the yellow on the front and the thin streaking.

Gold-crowned kinglet. (Margo D. Beller)
We also found ducks on various lakes - hooded mergansers, black ducks, common mergansers and mallards. Again, nothing we can't also see on Lake Parsippany now that the summer season is over and the boats are out of the water.

The biggest thing was we were away from home, raking leaves, losing eight hours to work. I, for one, needed the break and it was nice to have the radio on in the evenings, classical music playing as I read on the bed while MH did his own reading in the lounge chair.

Isn't that why one goes on vacation, to break the routine, to refresh the mind and body?

Using that definition, we had a very enjoyable vacation.

Saturday, November 9, 2013


There are times I feel like the character in "Bleak House" by Charles Dickens, who runs around the country agitating on behalf of starving children in Africa while her own children are neglected at home.

I have been doing a lot of writing lately in other blogs, on a variety of subjects, at the expense of this one, my own.

One blog is that of the Scherman Hoffman sanctuary of New Jersey Audubon. One is run by a couple of women for those 50 and older, WriteSideof50. And then there are my more political observations in the Morris Plains Patch.

I am glad to be doing so much writing, even tho' I am not paid for this effort. It is forcing me to use my skills as a reporter, writer and editor for a larger public than this humble blog has received. It is forcing me to use my brain in a creative way, even as I am busily trying to keep the house running, work eight hours for a job that does pay me and rake off this week's blanket of black locust pods.

Just a few of the seeds found raking. (photo by Margo D. Beller)
The last time I wrote here, I discussed how I wanted to punch in the nose the person who decided black locusts made good shade trees. Now, several weeks and many passes with the rake later, I want to kill that person.

For WriteSide, I made raking sound rather pastoral, a metaphor for the teamwork of a long and successful marriage. MH and I go out, get in each other's way, but somehow we wordlessly figure out what we have to do to get the pods and the many, many leaves that have fallen to the curb. We work together as a team. When done, we celebrate by going out to lunch and then collapsing at home, aching.

Well, besides raking, another thing we did together today was remove leaves from the gutters - rather, he went up the ladder to remove leaves, I stood at the bottom and held the ladder to keep it secure.

One year as we were doing this and I heard a yellow-bellied sapsucker, my sixth woodpecker of the day.

This year, a flock of 13 black vultures (and one turkey vulture) suddenly appeared over our house, circling for over five minutes.
Black vulture ( photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson)

I know better - vultures eat carrion, not live men pushing leaves out of gutters - but I involuntarily shuddered. MH and I are in our 50s and not getting any younger. We are closer to the end than the beginning. I didn't want him falling and hurting himself, or worse. There will come a time when this and many of the other chores we do will have to be done by others, for a fee.

I was very happy when he was back on terra firma.

I am also happy to be traveling for the next week away from the pods, acorns, leaves, bills, job and neighbors. I am hoping to come back relaxed and refreshed, at least for a couple of days. If we see some unusual birds, so much the better.

I promise to write about them here first.